Monday, October 22, 2012

India running out of numbers - problem for mobile users !


We are sitting on a virtual time-bomb waiting to explode – and what will the Nation do after that…… a great crisis indeed. !

There is a cliché ‘Women generally speaking is ‘generally speaking’.  – it is not womenfolk alone, but the entire humanity – all the people of India, your brothers and sisters are all busy talking to each other, not in person but over phone – unmindful and oblivious of their locations and their work – they are talking all the time – on the road, walking the talk, talking while crossing the busy roads and railway lines, talking while driving – be it 2 or any other wheeler – at theatres, places of worship, at hospitals, in the morning, noon, evening, night and more……….

And comes the news that ‘India would run out of phone numbers by next year’ – read this interesting report in TOI today.  India to run out of phone nos by next year “ :http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/India-to-run-out-of-phone-numbers-by-next-year/articleshow/16908983.cms

Remember that when I joined PSU Office in Mount Road, the telephone no. was ‘89893’ – simply 5 digits. Remember that in mid 1980s, only a handful of houses in Triplicane had residential telephone connections – even a decade later, talking to people outside the State [ not to speak of people in other Country] was quite an exercise, a costly one at that. This is no post to detail the travails of making a STD or ISD call……

As all of us know, the mobile nos. are ’10 digit’ numbers starting with prefix 9.  The Department of Telecommunications has divided India into various cellular zones such that within each zone, the call is treated as a local call, while across zones, it becomes a long-distance call.  At present, there are 22 telecom circles or service areas. They are classified into 4 categories: Metro, A, B, C. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata fall under Metro category. Chennai service area doesn't come under Metro category. It has been a part of Tamil Nadu service area since 2007.

The TOI report states that the inevitable is getting closer - All the phone numbers series currently in use, like the ones beginning with 98 or 99,are quickly getting used up with the subscriber base in the country expected to reach a billion and beyond by next year. There might be a serious problem if a new series of numbers are not brought in by the middle of next year.We are theoretically reaching the limit of existing number sets with a subscriber base of one billion, said Rajan Mathews,director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Already prefix 8 as also 7 are also in vogue for some operators and in some places. The solution may lie in 11-digit phone numbers but Department of Telecom (DoT) is also looking at alternatives.  The authorities state that allocation of numbers to operators is done in batches, depending on factors like the size of subscriber base and efficiency in utilizing existing number sets, among other things. A batch system is followed to avoid chaos due to all kinds of phone numbers flooding the market.

Earlier the nos. came with an identifier and going by the range of numbers, say the first two digits, the no. could be associated with a particular operator – which is impeded by the present number portability.  However, the original allotment being based on the range – not  all the numbers get used to the fullest extent due to the way in which they are allotted. Only a certain portion of these numbers are used as phone numbers. This is called percentage of numbering system utilization and it hovers around 50%,meaning only around half or more of the potential numbers are used as phone numbers.

Soon, we could see the numbers increased by another digit to accommodate newer connections and possibly adding to more trouble; we may even see the introduction of 12 digit numbers.  Reportedly some measures have been taken to address the situation. Trai has made some recommendations like getting rid of inactive users to free up phone numbers and getting more than a million landline numbers to be used in the mobile domain, states the TOI report.

Adding more digits could have some potential trouble with global mapping as well……

-----  a real problem – but most unlikely to affect ‘You & Me’ – we can continue chatting unmindful of all the situation despite the millions of ‘missed calls’ !!

with regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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